Skip to main content

Chinese Company Gets Nod for Internet-Based Mobile DTV Service

A Chinese company, HKTV, is now planning to offer a 1080i mobile DTV service via wireless Internet using spectrum that China Mobile acquired in 2010. This means HKTV can broadcast programming in HD quality directly to households while circumventing existing broadcasting regulations, essentially becoming the third free-to-air TV service in Hong Kong.

PC Lau, writing in the South China Morning Post, outlines the situation in his article Stricter regulation needed for mobile TV, says "because they are not subject to the Broadcasting Ordinance, mobile TV services enjoy more freedom, which means there is a greater risk that their programs could include undesirable content." He adds, "Furthermore, there is no control on their advertising time or content. This gives mobile TV a huge advantage in drumming up business revenue. As a result, conventional free TV may eventually be marginalized."

This business model could impact on free-to-air broadcasting in other parts of the world.

When examining mobile broadband use in U.S. major markets, along with the limitations on antenna patterns and performance, it's clear that the 700 MHz band isn't the best for dense cellular networks. The 600 MHz band--the TV spectrum the FCC is planning to auction--is likely to be even worse. It seems much of the spectrum the wireless carriers hope to acquire in the incentive auction could end up being used for providing supplemental downlink communications and what would essentially be broadcast TV services. This raises the question as to whether such services should be regulated as broadcast or broadband.

I've heard comments the wireless industry's goal in obtaining 600 MHz spectrum isn't to expand their wireless broadband options, but rather to weaken competition for TV content from existing TV broadcasts while gaining spectrum needed to offer a competing broadcast service they can charge for (and offer without being encumbered by all those pesky, and growing, public service and public interest requirements that rules broadcasters have to comply with).

Broadcasters provide an important service and I wonder that if the wireless broadband providers do gain a significant stake in providing TV content, will Congress and the FCC start thinking about applying some of the same regulations on them that free over-the-air broadcasters have to comply with now. That's already the case when it comes to providing options for people with disabilities.

Doug Lung is one of America's foremost authorities on broadcast RF technology. He has been with NBC since 1985 and is currently vice president of broadcast technology for NBC/Telemundo stations.